Building your child-raising village through volunteering
Times are tough economically and our communities -- our villages -- have been ravaged by the downturn. Everyone has been affected, family and friends alike. Even though the recession in the United States is officially over, the recovery is slow. It’s discouraging, to say the least. Now, as much as ever, we could use some village-building: Building relationships and making connections that will be the foundation for our lives and our childrens' lives in years to come.
If you haven't volunteered your time in your community before, there's no time like the present. For moms looking to enrich their lives as individuals and as parents, there's no better kind of organization to give your time to than one that benefits kids.
Volunteering in schools is an obvious way to volunteer time in your community, and yes, the schools need you. But there are other organizations that benefit kids that could use your skills and time, too:
- Educational foundations and booster organizations support the efforts of local schools, often raising money for capital expenditures and individual teacher grants that are just not in the regular school budget. From telephoning fundraising on your couch to event planning, there are many opportunities to give time to such foundations.
- Food banks and shelters are experiencing more and more demand for services and goods as the economy continues to be under stress. As children are often the unseen victims of employment loss and the housing crisis, these organizations in particular have a real impact on the health of your community.
- Some organizations specifically target the environment of children outside our country's borders, and many such smaller, locally-run organizations have specific goals for those children abroad. For example, the Sharing Foundation specifically addresses the needs of impoverished children in Cambodia, but is run by a few dedicated volunteers in New England. Ask around to learn about local foundations you could help.
Sometimes there are specific projects and goals in your community that could use a burst of effort and leadership. Perhaps there's an effort to build a playground that is fully accessible by special needs kids. Perhaps the high school robotics team needs help procuring supplies for and getting to a national competition. Perhaps it's an effort to get kids to wear helmets while biking and skateboarding. No matter the project, it could use your help -- and you'd likely meet some terrific people while volunteering.
Connections and relationships
According to a survey by the Corporation for National and Community Service, 1.6 million more people volunteered in their communities in 2009 than in the previous year, including 1.2 million more women. That's an impressive number! But, as always, there is more to be done. Volunteering doesn't only benefit the organization in receipt of your time, it benefits you and your family. It builds and expands the positive example-based village in which you raise your children. We could all use more of that!